The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Can You Tell The Difference Between Boxing And A Barroom Brawl?

Posted on | December 6, 2011 | 22 Comments

by Smitty

Via Zero Hedge we have yet another fine example of a useless Progressive, if you’ll pardon my pleonasm, here in Global Research by Paul Craig Roberts. The context is the purported threat by the Obama Administration to veto the Defense Authorization Bill, emphasis mine:

However, on further reflection I conclude that the Obama regime’s objection to military detention is not rooted in concern for the constitutional rights of American citizens. The regime objects to military detention because the implication of military detention is that detainees are prisoners of war. As Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin put it: Should somebody determined “to be a member of an enemy force who has come to this nation or is in this nation to attack us as a member of a foreign enemy, should that person be treated according to the laws of war? The answer is yes.”
Detainees treated according to the laws of war have the protections of the Geneva Conventions. They cannot be tortured. The Obama regime opposes military detention, because detainees would have some rights. These rights would interfere with the regime’s ability to send detainees to CIA torture prisons overseas. This is what the Obama regime means when it says that the requirement of military detention denies the regime “flexibility.”

The Laws of War are to countries what the rules of boxing are to fisticuffs. The Laws of War attempt to bound the behavior, so that the fight can occur while minimizing collateral damage. Countries that adhere to the Geneva Conventions grasp that the behaviors outlawed by the convention, e.g. blowing up hospitals, have no military value and will only prolong conflict.

Boxing presumes adherence to rules, as well. Boxers don’t put each other in chokeholds. As a thought experiment, say Paul Craig Roberts approached Mike Tyson in a bar, and put a chokehold on Tyson. What is the likelihood that Tyson is going to brush Roberts off and say “Come, my good man: let us engage in a civilized bout.”? The phrase “Roberts looked like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone” comes to mind, to paraphrase Croce. Do you fine Tyson according to the rules of boxing for scattering a few pieces of Roberts about? Why, no: it wasn’t a boxing match.

Why under the sun do these idiots keep attempting these misapplications of the rules? Two closely related sources are:

And it’s high time we call out these idiots like Roberts. They are either useful idiots waging a soft campaign in service of the foe, or diabolical enemies badly in need of a ‘Mike Tyson’ moment of their own.

The radical Islamic terrorists who beset Western Civilization are barroom brawling creeps. We still, by the way, treat them very, very well when they are captured, if the weight gains at various places of detention mean anything. But these terrorists have do not and will not conform to the rules of boxing. Why should they, when the likes of Roberts and his ilk support their cause? Easier to destroy boxing slowly than give up being a brawler.

The best argument of the Roberts crowd seems to be that if boxers treat brawlers like brawlers too much, the boxers will become brawlers. Some slippery slope exists, they imply. This does not make perfect sense, but it veers closely enough toward reality that it may confuse those not choosing to think. For all the hubbub about waterboarding, labeled ‘torture’ on Wikipedia, note that even Wikipedia allows that the actual number of usages can be counted on one hand with leftover fingers. Rumsfeld allowed the same amount in his book. Now, you can contend that Rumsfeld is engaged in a Holder-esque game of lying early, lying often, and lying big, but then you are admitting that we have a far greater problem in that our federal government has gone completely off the rails.

None of this argument is to be taken as support for the Obama Administration. The whole Afghanistan argument was a cheesy way to make a foreign policy statement that sounded vaguely credible during the 2008 campaign, but which became an ambiguous muddle at best. While not going the full Ron Paul here, one hopes that the United States takes a serious look at the costs of nation building over the last decade and understands that we should never bother with this sort of noise again.


22 Responses to “Can You Tell The Difference Between Boxing And A Barroom Brawl?”

  1. Peter
    December 6th, 2011 @ 9:17 am

     In 1942 the Marines on Guadalcanal tried to adhere to the Geneva and Hague Conventions. The Japanese did not. It did not take long before the Marines quit trying.  The war in the Pacific reverted to near savagery. For that matter, many American and British soldiers eliminated SS troopers in the field.

     Funny how “The Greatest Generation” would be on trial for War Crimes today.

  2. Anonymous
    December 6th, 2011 @ 9:29 am

    Whoa … looks like we’re back in “Spock has a beard universe” again. That’s the only place that anyone would call Paul Craig Roberts (Ronald Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy — in other words, the implementer of “Reaganomics”) a “progressive.”

  3. smitty
    December 6th, 2011 @ 9:35 am

    I’ll take the hit on not having researched Roberts, but he’s making the classic mental judo argument that we should accept a whuppin’ in the name of an appeal to the Fairness God.

  4. Joe
    December 6th, 2011 @ 9:40 am

    Smitty, he is saying the detention of American citizens should not take place indefinitely (without presumably due process).  That is not accepting a whuppin in an appeal to the Fairness God, that is applying the U.S. Constitution as written.  If we pick up U.S. citizens on the battlefield fighting our forces or engaged in terrorism, why not prosecute them (either in military tribunals which happened in WWII or in civilian trials)? 

  5. Joe
    December 6th, 2011 @ 9:46 am

    Paul Craig Roberts was a member of Ronald Reagan’s administration.  He is also a bit nuts.  Maybe we can get him and Ramsey Clark together?  Those kids would make a great couple.   As I note below, I do not believe we are in a situation where suspending constitutional rights to U.S. citizens should occur, but just because he is right on that point doesn’t mean Paul Craig Robert isn’t a nutter. 

  6. Anonymous
    December 6th, 2011 @ 9:47 am

    It’s not about acceptin’ a whuppin’.

    It’s about America living up to its claims of being e.g. the shining city on the hill.

    Personally I think that’s a lost cause, but it’s definitely not Alinsky Rule #4ism coming from him. He really thinks there’s something left to save.

    Now if you accuse ME of Rule #4ism, mea maxima culpa.

  7. Anonymous
    December 6th, 2011 @ 9:53 am

    Oh, I agree that Roberts is a nutter (he rights for VDARE — need I say more?).

    He is, however, a conservative nutter, not a progressive, nutter.

    And no, I don’t think “conservative nutter” is a redundancy. I respect principled conservatives even if I don’t agree with them.

  8. smitty
    December 6th, 2011 @ 10:23 am

    Read the whole article. The Bill of Rights argument is fine. The Law of War argument, as I’m saying here, is crap.

  9. smitty
    December 6th, 2011 @ 10:25 am

    Liberty is fine, and we have to be that shining city on the hill, for our citizens. There is something left to save.
    As long as we understand that the military of the shining city on the hill will box with the boxers, brawl with the brawlers, and not confuse the two, we’re OK.

  10. smitty
    December 6th, 2011 @ 10:26 am

    And part of my overall point, across blog posts, is that Progressivism has substantially infected the GOP.

  11. ThePaganTemple
    December 6th, 2011 @ 10:32 am

    I’m sick of the shining city on the hill bullshit, its inapplicable to the current time and circumstances. It’s our shining city on the hill, everybody else is welcome to admire it all they want as long as they do so from a distance, a damn far distance. Maybe after a sufficient number of generations have passed they will be inspired enough, or much more likely desperate enough to use us as a model to institute some kind of real change in their little third world hellholes, which is what the rest of the world either is or is swiftly becoming. Let them keep that fucking shit over there and die in the pig sties they’ve made, we don’t need it here.

  12. Anonymous
    December 6th, 2011 @ 10:42 am


    It’s not so much that progressivism has “infected” the GOP as that it originated in the GOP.

    The Democrats just borrowed it for awhile and put some nitrous oxide in its gas tank.

    But still, Roberts isn’t progressively inclined. He tends toward the Old Right.

    And he happens to be very right on this particular issue.

    We can argue about the letter of the “Law of War” all day long, but let’s talk for a minute about the spirit of that law.

    Said spirit boils down to “construe the battlefield as narrowly as possible, and keep the worst effects of war within that narrowly construed sphere.”

    That spirit dictates that when someone is disarmed, captive, and removed from the immediate combat environment, they are no longer on the battlefield. From that point forward, even if it started as a bar brawl, The Marquess of Queensberry’s rules must henceforth apply.

  13. Joe
    December 6th, 2011 @ 10:43 am

    Well being on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s shit list is not necessarily a bad thing…just sayin. 

  14. Joe
    December 6th, 2011 @ 10:44 am

    I am willing to compromise.  How about a moderately clean rest stop with toilets that are not frightening on the road to the future? 

  15. Michael
    December 6th, 2011 @ 10:45 am

    The problem for Americans who make common cause with the jihadis is that, by the very specific definition in the Constitution, they could be charged with treason. We don’t want to go there, for some reason, but a treason trial is what the Constitution prescribes.  For the non-citizen, we have the Hague and Geneva Conventions,  which also make very clear who is a Prisoner of War and who is not. The remedies that those agreements provide are also pretty clear, a blindfold and a clean bullet. The only reason to capture them is to try to extract information about future plans.  It has generally been thought, by the people who developed the rules of lawful warfare, that giving Geneva and Hague Convention rights to people and soldiers who are not a party to those agreements, we diminish any motivation that they might have  to abide by those rules.

  16. Anonymous
    December 6th, 2011 @ 10:46 am

    I’ve no truck with the SPLC, either. If I could stick them and VDARE in a sack together and toss it off a bridge, I’d feel like I’d done my part for civil society.

  17. Joe
    December 6th, 2011 @ 11:07 am

    I would support that too, but sadly even those groups get the benefits of the rules of war and the Bill of Rights.  

  18. Joe
    December 6th, 2011 @ 11:37 am

    Are you telling me a jury would not convict a jihadi American for treason?  Could you do such a trial fairly without turning over classified records?  Could be tricky, but I would believe you can do that. KSMs should not be in a civilian court, but the Jose Padillas and Johnny Walker Lindhs should. 

  19. Bob Belvedere
    December 6th, 2011 @ 11:56 am

    Plenty of RINO’s served in The Raygun Administration…fella named Baker comes to mind.

  20. Anonymous
    December 6th, 2011 @ 2:51 pm

    Nice article, Smitty.  I only have a quarrel with that last bit.

    I’ve held in reserve any comments over “nation building” for several years–since the first “anti neocon” voices arose in strongly on the right in 2003.  Mostly because I wanted to mull it over.

    I never bought the complaints about the concept, but I was willing to be taught. I still don’t buy it. I think it’s become a club to beat people over the head for “screwing up the win.”  However, like folks who would put a worm on a brook trout fishing rig, it’s not the thing most people seem to think it is when tossing the phrase about like an epithet. (Bear with me, I know you know what it is).

    “Nation Building” undeniably worked in Germany and Japan.  It was the honorable, decent thing to do.  It helps maintain the peace. It provides trading partners. It acknowledges the humanity of the majority of the people in those defeated countries.

    What it patently does NOT do is let you go in with a half-assed intent to simply assist the defeated enemy to somehow come to an arrangement to accomodate the victor.  The reason it worked in Germany was because we forced the Germans to clean up the concentration camps, endure Nuremburg, and accept our temporary overlordship until they accepted our demands for a new government.

    Bremer’s governorship in Iraq was an experiment in toadying and milquetoasting our way to nudge the radicals toward peace, without requiring a penalty for waging war.  It was exactly what we had in the colonies here when Britain foisted “governors” upon the people. It embodied what Ayn Rand called “The Politics of Pull.” Such a foolhardy lack of moral discipline inevitably leads to loathing and hatred in the population of those so governed.

    So Bremer’s abominable tenure wasn’t “Nation Building” anymore than Obama is “saving jobs.”  It was capitulation and incompetence on a grand scale, and the Bush family bears a huge amount of responsibility for foisting “compassionate conservatism” onto the art of war. Clearly done in some vague attempt to pretend the liberals are really on to something with this whole Lawfare thing.

    So I’m all for nation building, but only where the vanquished are forced to accept our concept of “law,” and they pay a heavy penalty for waging war, and especially for any continuing belligerence.

    That sort of nation building is cheap at twice the price.

  21. Adjoran
    December 6th, 2011 @ 3:13 pm

    Calling Paul Craig Roberts “a bit nuts” is like saying Nancy Pelosi “had a little work done.”

  22. Michael Todd
    December 7th, 2011 @ 1:49 am


    As already stated, Roberts is making a classic Old Right argument, rooted in American conservatism prior to WFB. The conservatism of Russell Kirk. And he’s absolutely right.

    Here’s the thing … When discussing powers, the matter of enemies does not concern us, but the matter of our relationship to the state does. If men were angels, we would not care what diabolical powers politicians usurped. But they are not, and power corrupts. As Hayek put it, “In government, the scum rises to the top.”

    You’re argument is based simply on fighting a collective enemy, where our politicos are omnipotent beings who wouldn’t dare infringe our liberties. But from an Old Right perspective, the US federal government is just another government … which has grown into a beast worse than King George III.

    You see, the Old Right doesn’t see America the country and the federal government as 2 in the same, but as 2 distinctly different entities. The Old Right doesn’t buy any of that collectivist crap. Once you separate society and government, arguments like Roberts (or Pauls) will begin to make a lot more sense.

    We’re walking down the same path the German’s walked about 100 years ago. So stirred up about something, anything, we’re surrendering unlimited powers to a unitary executive. Liberty never made our lives dangerous. Lack of government power never made us vulnerable. 911 was a crisis the power-hungry didn’t let go to waste. Losers in war change their lifestyle, not winners. What does that say about us? We’ve changed our entire relationship with the state, the masters have become the servants … who can be kidnapped, detained and killed at presidential whim.

    That ain’t freedom, my friend. From both the political left and right in this country, we’re paving the road to big government hell.